10 Real Life Strategies for Dementia Care Giving

Being Reasonable, Rational and Logical will Just Get You in Trouble.
When someone is acting in ways that don’t make sense, we tend to carefully explain the situation, calling on their sense of appropriateness to get compliance. However the person with dementia doesn’t have a “Boss” in his brain any more, so they don’t respond to our arguments, no matter how logical. Straightforward, simple sentences about what is going to happen are usually the best.

People with Dementia Do Not Need To Be Grounded in Reality.
When someone has memory loss they sometimes forget important things e.g. that their mother is deceased. When we remind them of this loss, we remind them of the pain of that loss. If someone wants to “go home” reminding them that they are home is only going to lead to an argument. Redirecting them by asking them to tell you about their home and talking about your home is a better way to keep things calm.

You Cannot Be a Perfect Care Giver.
Just as there is no such thing as a perfect parent, there is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. You have a right to your emotions and you are going to have days when you are impatient or frustrated. Learn to forgive yourself and your loved one.

Therapeutic Fibbing Reduces Stress.
We tend to be meticulously honest with people. However when someone has dementia, honesty can lead to distress for you and your loved one. Does it really matter if your loved one thinks she a young mother of an infant? It’s OK to tell your loved one that you’re going out to lunch and coincidentally stop off at the Doctors office while you’re out.

Making Agreements Doesn’t Work.
If you ask your loved one never to do something again or to remember to do something, it will soon be forgotten. In early stages of dementia leaving notes may help but as the disease progresses this will become ineffective. Change the environment if necessary to keep them safe. For example, shut the power to the stove off at the master breaker to keep them from playing with the stove.

Doctors Often Need to Be Educated By You.
Telling the Doctor what you see at home is important. The Doctor can’t tell from an exam if they have been up all night pacing. Doctors can also benefit from therapeutic fibbing by telling your loved one that an anti-depressant is a vitamin to keep them feeling well.

You Can’t Do It All. It’s OK To Accept Help.
When people ask if they can help, the answer should always be yes! Put together a list of things people can do to help. Maybe it’s picking up a prescription or staying with your loved one while you run an errand. Doing this will reinforce others to help and besides, it’s always harder to ask for help than it is to accept it.

Don’t Overestimate or Underestimate What Your Loved One Can Do.
Sometimes it’s easier if “we just do it.” Just make sure that you are not taking away their ability to be independent in that skill. On the other hand make sure that your not asking too much of them which can lead to frustration and agitation. It can be hard to find the balance and remember that it can change from day to day.

Tell, Don’t Ask.
Rather than ask the sometimes-challenging question of what do you want for dinner; simply remind them it’s time for dinner. This will encourage them to eat and avoids the burdensome chore of trying to process in their minds what they would like to eat.

It’s Normal to Question the Diagnosis When Your Loved One Has Moments of Lucidity.
Remember that you are responding to a disease and not the person. Everyone with dementia has those moments when they make perfect sense and can respond appropriately. You’re not imaging things but rather than second-guess the diagnosis, enjoy those moments when they occur.